House sales falling through ‘because council is taking so long to turn round searches’

Agents are complaining that it is taking so long for their local authority to turn round searches that deals are falling through.

Michael Brain, of Hannells Estate Agents in Derby, said that the timescale is now 17 to 19 weeks.

Two meetings have taken place between the city council and worried local agents and solicitors.

Brain said: “The council made promises to work on the backlog which stood at 542 outstanding searches.

“Following that, in the first week council officers completed 104 searches, but it dropped to 62 searches the following week.

“With between 50 and 60 new searches being generated across the city each week, it is easy to see why the backlog will almost never be cleared. It is crippling the market.”

Agents have been told that that staff were pulled off searches to act as election officers, while there have also been IT problems and staff sickness.

A Derby City Council spokesperson acknowledged that timescales for searches are taking longer than they should, saying: “The council is committed to improving turnaround times as a priority for the coming year.”


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  1. TDGC

    Well, if in todays technological world, this is still happening, it yet again demonstrates that its others involved in the process that make estate agents look bad and let clients down.

    1. Bless You

      Crazy how searches aren’t online. It should be a 1 minute job..

  2. mattfaizey

    True to an extent.

    However, how many agents staff in the area are currently trotting out the same old rubbish at the start?

    ‘oh yes Miss Smith, you should certainly be in within 6-8 weeks…..’

    Then wonder why 12 weeks later she pulls out. At which point the agent blames the search timeframe.

    If Miss Smith was told the truth at the start, the chain would have held.

    OR local conveyancers, knowing this could explain sensibly to the client why she may wish to put in and pay for searches at the very outset instead of just leaving it until what is relatively late in the process. Further exacerbating the poor lady’s distress




    1. Bless You

      The average is 12 weeks.  Idiots working in new homes and living in the 80’s demanding 4 week exchanges should be made illegal. 
      We are now thinking of putting in a disclaimer saying we are not responsible if any one in the chain buys a new house   . 
      It should be illegal to even discuss moving dates until all solictors are ready. 
       They seem to blame everyone else and then a day before moving , decide to ask for another enquiry… #brokenSystem 

      1. The_Progressor

        “The average is 12 weeks.  Idiots working in new homes and living in the 80’s demanding 4 week exchanges should be made illegal.”
        I work in Derby in sales progression, the first conversation I have with a developer when they enter a chain is surrounding the local search timescales and that they need to be realistic. They immedietely go down the path of ascertaining whether search indemnity is possible and push push push from there.

    2. HonestJohn

      Totally agree Matt, if everyone was a bit more honest and transparent, chains would hold together better. Buyer and sellers need educating and the agents, lawyers and mortgage brokers all have a part to play in this.

    3. PeeBee

      Mr Faisey. 
      Previously our views have been radically opposing.  Generally the resultant dioalogue hasn’t been pretty – or productive.  Our views on blame are pretty polar.
      But today is a new day – and by way of throwing an olive branch, I’m going to start with some agreement.
      If people were honest with people the world would be different.
      No-one in theory would, could – or should – complain if what they were told was what to expect.
      But that’s not how the world works.  Is it?
      People only hear want they want to hear.
      Furthermore, people don’t particularly like being told the truth if it isn’t what they want to hear.  Let’s take a step back from ‘our’ industry so that emotions don’t get the better of either of us.
      Miss Smith wants to buy a sofa.  She goes to two sofa shops that sell what she’s looking for.
      Salesperson in sofa shop 1 tells her that they are currently experiencing manufacturing and delivery problems, and it could take five or six months to fulfil the order and get her seated.
      Salesperson in sofa shop #2 tells her (with fingers crossed behind back) six weeks for delivery.
      Guess which one she orders from.  Guess which saleperson she didn’t like.  Wouldn’t deal with that t****r again if they were the last salesperson on Earth.
      Then… five weeks down the line… she gets a phone call from Debbie in Customer Care.  There’s been a delay.  Maybe a week or two longer than original estimate.  No more than three.
      Then another call two weeks later.  The factory’s quality controller has a case of potentially terminal haemorroids and it’s causing delays because they can’t properly test each sofa for comfort.
      The back-up is horrendous. (well it would be, wouldn’t it…)
      And so on.  Rinse and repeat every few weeks.
      Until the day, TWENTY-NINE WEEKS after visiting the sofa shops, that Miss Smith opens the door to take possession of the settee she had almost forgotten she’d ordered.
      I’d bet you a months wages that she’s not nice as ninepence to the delivery crew, and pleased as punch that they have brought her a lovely new sofa.  I’ll bet they get both barrels from her… and some.
      It’s a universal situation.  For ‘home’ read ‘sofa’.  For ‘sofa’ – read ‘car’.  In every situation, the differential between expectation and reality equals disappointment.
      Managing expectations isn’t anybody’s favourite part of the job, Mr Faisey – and blaming the QC’s botty problems is just one way of buying time… but does nothing to fix the issue that, in your post, shouldn’t have happened “if Miss Smith was told the truth at the start”.
      Or, as per my story, Miss Smith wouldn’t have bought the sofa (house… car… whatever) in the first place.
      Us humans are funny animals like that.
      Have a good day, Mr Faisey.

      1. Steviex

        When we apply for land registry documents for title etc, we get them within 10 minutes usually, surely there must be a system in the pipeline to centralise all searches.

  3. Orson67

    The election excuse is a load of twaddle, unless procedures have changed drastically from when I was an LGO you work for ONE day on the election matters, albeit a very long day….6am to 10pm for staff on the polling station and the count takes 3-5 hours depending on turnout.

  4. whatdoiknow58

    An excellent topic showing just how broken the current system is. Unfortunately it is all down to money which the Councils don’t have to update their systems with better software and more importantly extra staff as shown here. Until more funds are made available it’s not going to get much better in a lot of over stretched Councils like a Derby.

  5. seenitall

    “until more funds are made available it’s not going to get much better in a lot of over stretched Councils like a Derby. ” Perhaps if the councils didn’t pay such over inflated pensions, got rid of staff who did not perform within a normal time frame and had some accountability for the money they spend things would be better.      A bit like what privately run and owned estate agents have to do  – you know earn, self fund, pay their own pensions.
    Paying more money from say a hike in business rates or parking charges is not the answer.

  6. Steviex

    We now tell all of our clients it’s 12 weeks possibly 18. It’s also not just new homes demanding a 4 week exchange it’s banks and asset management companies when dealing with a repo or similar. Not too sure what  year these people are living in

  7. Ben Brain

    As a follow on from this article, last week Derby City Council sent out 106 searches and the backlog is now down to 409.

    In “normal” times they would expect to have pipeline of around 200 so it is coming down week by week.

    Whilst it is still a way off the target time of 10 working days, the turnaround time has been reduced (for direct searches) from 50 + working days to 33.

    Traditionally, Derby City Council has had one of the best turnaround times around and there were a number of unforseen circumstances and events that happened within short succession which has led to a massive reduction in search production.

    After a number of meets with the council and huge support from local businesses, MPs, Councillors and other national organisations such as HM Land Registry, IPSA and Land Data, it is fair to say that the Council are well aware of the scale of the problem and are committed and working hard on getting back to acceptable levels.

    We are continuing a regular dialogue with the Council to provide on-going feedback and see if there is any way in which their efforts can be supported.

    We hope that the figures quoted in the article above were merely an anomaly and the figures quoted in this comment will be the norm from now on.


  8. smile please

    The stress and misery this causes should not be underestimated.

    Of course agents should advise clients of potential delays but thats really is not the point.

    in 2019 how can this happen? – It is so easy to automate, it should be an instant return on a portal. We have the government interfering with the lettings and sales market when ultimately they do not have their own house in order.


  9. PeeBee

    I seem to be the only person here that can’t quite figure this at face value.

    Buyers, it seems, are pulling out of purchases because they are taking too long.

    Has the conveyancing and Estate Agency worlds forgotten about those strange bits of paper called ‘Search Indemnities’? (and yes I am aware that they may not necessarily be appropriate for every transaction)

    Or those rare animals – ‘Personal Searches’? (same comment applies)

    But even putting those things to one side – the main thing that’s nagging at me is – what do these bitter, disappointed wannabe buyers do next?  Start the ball s…l…o…w…l…y rolling again on their second choice ‘forever home’?




    1. The_Progressor

      Hi PB

      I am a sales progressor working in Derby and can shed some light on some of your suggestions.

      Search Indemnities aren’t accepted by every lender, and with at least the cases I am dealing with the majority have some sort of mortgage involved. As soon as I learn of a buyers lender I check the CML handbook to see if their lender accepts and make sure the solicitors are aware of the prospect of search indemnity. Solicitors are often resistant to using it, adding another layer of difficulty.

      As I understand it, with Personal Searches the provider sends somebody to the council to collect a number of searches, an appointment is made to do this. Search timescales for personal searches are getting pushed back and back as more people are using the service, as appointments to fit the people in to collect said searches are sparse!

      The situation with slow searches has been ongoing since I started working in the city in September 2018. Since November we’ve gone from 6 weeks to 8/9 weeks. With every single buyer and seller I deal with, the majority of the chases we do are focused on ensuring searches are applied for ASAP and to get an ETA from the solicitor, via their search provider, as to when we can expect the searches.

      Educating the solicitors who are based outside of Derby can be difficult, their search providers often give an ETA of the standard 2-3 weeks, only to be increased when the faux local search date comes about.

      1. PeeBee

        Hi ‘The Progressor’ – and welcome to EYE!
        Thanks for that clarification – which is pretty much what I had expected to be the case.
        Unlike the good old days when Building Society branches had their own ‘mortgage books’ and the Manager could ‘take a view’ on certain matters, the corporate wheels now only turn in corporate order and no other way, even when it potentially costs them business.
        My question still stands as to what all of the supposed walkaway buyers are doing.  Are they giving up on the hope of home ownership?  Passing up the chance of securing their dream home?
        Or is the ‘news’ telling a slightly embellished story?
        Your experience-based views are welcomed.

        1. The_Progressor

          Hello Again PB I’ve had many buyers threaten to walk away due to searches, but at the end of the day they want to buy in Derby and unless they are buying in areas that fall under different councils, they will be facing the exact same issues with a restart on that search turn-around time.
          We make sure the buyers are painfully aware that the council controls the searches, and that there isn’t much that can be done to expedite them (outside of a search provider/solicitor having a good relationship with the council, I’ve heard they can be formed!).
          I can safely say I’ve only had 1 buyer walk away specifically due to the searches after stressing these points. On sales that fall through with searches applied for, we ask the buyer if they will be happy to sell their searches if we should find another buyer, I’ve facilitated this a few times. The Progressor

  10. Andrew V

    Hello. 43 working days according to Derby council website. Cost £111.00. Get sellers to instruct lawyers and submit a local search upon marketing. Buyer reimburses on completion. Come on guys it’s not rocket science.

  11. TwitterSalisPropNews

    So the Council is where it is – so any solutions?


    ESTATE AGENTS – in that area, make sure (or you pay if the seller is awkward) when marketing that the search is applied for, and – if you are taking that long to sell the house and say 4 months approaches, reapply for the search

    MEDIUM TERM – could be short term if CML if there was hunger

    LENDERS – to ALL change their CML Part 2 to allow search insurance (if the search provider has a new CML approved accreditation)


    1. PeeBee

      “ESTATE AGENTS – in that area, make sure (or you pay if the seller is awkward) when marketing that the search is applied for”

      Oh, yeah, TSPN – The Agent shoulders the cost for a client who in your own words ain’t gonna be easy.

      How’s about the conveyancer picks up the tab instead? – after all, their customer will be paying them at the end…

      1. TwitterSalisPropNews

        ?   You’d make the lowest charging party pay it to help the estate agent’s deal out?

        Or – you could watch while the other estate agents knock it off their commission and bag the instruction to begin with as an agent who offers solutions.


        1. PeeBee

          Thought not.


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